By KEVIN McGILL Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court has dealt another blow to vote-by-mail advocates in Texas.
A push by the state’s Democrats and some voters to allow mail balloting to increase safety during the COVID-19 pandemic had been upheld by a federal district judge. But a divided three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated that ruling late Thursday. Earlier this year, another 5th Circuit panel had blocked the ruling from taking effect.
The panel rejected an argument that the vote-by-mail statute in Texas discriminates on the basis of age. The argument was based on the law allowing people ages 65 and over to vote by mail, but not younger voters who don’t have a disability or other specified reason for absentee voting.
Judge Leslie Southwick, writing for the majority, said failing to allow for absentee balloting does not amount to an abridgment of the right to vote under the 26th Amendment.
“Abridgment of the right to vote applies to laws that place a barrier or prerequisite to voting, or otherwise make it more difficult to vote, relative to the baseline,” Southwick, nominated to the court by President George W. Bush wrote. “On the other hand, a law that makes it easier for others to vote does not abridge any person’s right to vote for the purposes of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.”
Judge Carolyn Dineen King, a nominee of President Jimmy Carter, sided with Southwick. Dissenting was Judge Carl Stewart, nominated by President Bill Clinton.
“The statute in question facially discriminates based on age, which in the context of the pandemic leads to dramatically different outcomes for different age groups,” Stewart wrote.